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Winter Storm Damage

The winter months can bring unpredictable weather. Rain, ice and even snow. Combine this with high winds and drought stressed tree's and it may spell problem's. It's important to understand what predisposes a tree to limb or whole tree failure.

  1. Tree Species- Some tree's have weak limbs or poor branch attachments resulting in higher amounts of storm related damage.

  2. Tree defects- Defects in a tree can lead to big trouble during storms. Bark inclusion, Decay, Insect damage, mistletoe, lean angle and pruning can all lead to defects.

  3. Wind exposure- Is the tree protected from wind exposure by other trees, natural barriers or buildings.

  4. Pruning methods- Were proper pruning methods followed in the past. Improper pruning may result in an increased risk of limb failure. Lion's tailing or over thinning often leads to limb failure. Studies show that trees with a full canopy are less likely to suffer from wind damage due to the wind being deflected around the tree whereas, Ice storms result in full canopy evergreen trees to suffer more damaged due to the increased surface area where ice collects.

  5. Soil moisture- Heavily saturated soils may result in lifting or failure of the tree's root plate.

  6. Root area- Has the tree's root area been disturbed. Limited root area's decrease the area in which structural roots anchor the tree.

Remember, tree's with broken limbs are often extremely dangerous following storms. Many times they are contacting power lines that have energized the tree. They may have been weakened and limbs and entire tree's may fail without warning. In some cases failures have occurred many days, weeks and even moths after the storm has passed. If your tree has large limbs that have broken cordon off the areas and advise others to keep clear until the tree has been cared for by professionals.


If a power line is involved contact your local utility provider or 911 if it presents an immediate hazard.

Even cable or phone lines are considered energized until proven otherwise.


Do not attempt to heat limbs or shake off ice. In most cases this only damages the tree further. In some instances wait until temperatures rise above freezing to spray smaller trees with tap water from the hose to help melt the ice.


Any oak tree's that are damaged should be pruned using sterilized tools and prune seal all wounds.

Do not wait to address broken limbs or wounds on oaks. (Guidelines for not pruning your oaks is Feb 1st thru end of June due to spread by sap feeding beetles) Address broken limbs as soon as safe conditions allow to avoid the risk of oak wilt spread. This is one of those exceptions to the rule. Follow I.S.A. pruning practices to ensure good tree wound closure.


And lastly, be safe around your damaged tree's. If in doubt contact a Professional Tree Service to remove limbs instead of doing it yourself. That $300.00 you saved on removing that one big limb may cost you $30,000 in medical bills.


Be safe !!!